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Man Responsible for Killing Crystal Lake Family Arrested for Another DUI on Sunday

Walter J. Depner, 61, of Mt. Prospect, was arrested by McHenry County Sheriff's police in Lakemoor and charged with various offenses.

A Lakemoor resident on Sunday night got an unwelcomed guest who turned out to be a Mt. Prospect man on parole.

The intruder - Walter J. Depner, 61, of Mt. Prospect - is out on parole after serving 12 years of a 14-year sentence for the DUI-related crash that took the lives of a Crystal Lake woman and her three children in 1999, according to the Northwest Herald.

The Burleson family, of Crystal Lake, was on their way home from a day at Great America when Depner crashed into their mini-van and killed Eva, 34, Daniel, 13, Tiffany, 11 and Dallis, 7. Thomas Burleson, the husband and father, was the sole survivor of the crash, the Herald reports.

McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren said officers were dispatched at 6:17 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, for a well-being check on a person who reportedly drove off the road near 905 W. Rand Road in unincorporated Lakemoor.

While deputies were in route to that location, a second call came in regarding an "unwanted subject" at a home in the 500 block of North Boulevard, also in  unincorporated Lakemoor. Upon arriving at Rand Road, deputies saw the vehicle that had veered off the road was gone, Nygren said.

Meanwhile, at the North Boulevard house, the homeowner told deputies a man pulled his car into his driveway, walked into his house and sat on his couch. The homeowner recognized the intruder as someone who used to live in the neighborhood.

The unwanted guest was identified as Depner, now living at 1717 Aralia Dr., Mt. Prospect, Nygren said. 

Sheriff’s deputies spoke with Depner, who said he was previously at his girlfriend’s house and they had gotten into an argument. Depner appeared intoxicated and took his girlfriend’s vehicle for a drive in his old neighborhood, Nygren said.

Depner was upset, and his speech was slurred. McHenry Township Fire Protection District responded to the scene and provided Depner with medical attention.

The vehicle Depner was driving had snow on the left bumper with minor damage to it. There was no property damage located on Rand Road, Nygren said. Depner was transported to Centegra Hospital McHenry for medical treatment, where he currently remains.

Depner was issued four citations:

  • DUI
  • Driving while license revoked
  • Driving an uninsured motor vehicle
  • Improper lane use

Bond for Depner was set at $1,500. He is scheduled to appear in court March 15.

The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office continues to work with the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office and Depner’s Parole Officer during the course of this investigation. Additional charges may be pending.

Shallay Zerin February 25, 2013 at 09:12 PM
This is soo sad. I was best friends with Tiffany. We were together everyday wen we were younger. I love n miss her so much. Not a day gos by that I dnt think about her. I hope this man gets life.
MW February 25, 2013 at 10:30 PM
I'm frustrated by his low bond amount. Given his history, I would hope he would have a high bond, if any to make sure he doesn't kill anyone else. Obviously he is going to continue to drink & drive and we need to be protected from him.
Nick February 25, 2013 at 10:30 PM
Why only a 1500 bond. For just 150 dollars this man can be on the road again?
Tbone February 25, 2013 at 11:01 PM
He would be gone, if I'm part of the family that lost loved ones, this man would be gone...
marie February 26, 2013 at 02:38 AM
I was caught writing a false prescription and my bond was 25,0000$ yes twenty five thousand! I know what I did was "very" wrong but I didn't kill a family of four! I never server jail time and I went away to rehab for 3 months. What is wrong with our legal system! I can't' believe that this guy got out of jail then went back out driving while drunk and is now out driving our streets again! Was this a real judge or a "cracker jack" judge? Obviously we all know the answer to that guestion! Does this judge ever put himself in the shoes of the people who are suffering because of Mr. Demper? This is a terrible but true example of our justist system. Prayers go out to anyone that may be out driving while Mr. Demper is also out driving while drunk! SHAME ON YOU JUDGE!!
Greg February 26, 2013 at 03:44 AM
This make me so mad. I was the first car on the scene when he killed then. This man should be locked up for life...
Bob February 26, 2013 at 12:27 PM
This is disgusting. This guy needs to be back in jail NOW. The drunk driver that rear ended me several years ago had been arrested FOUR times for DUI. Our courts need to take DUI and repeat offenders seriously or more people will die. Any judge that puts him back on the street where he can drive and kill again should be his cell mate.
REAL Vet February 26, 2013 at 01:06 PM
Sweet. The McHenry DA slaps people on the hand all the time even after they have long records and have shown to be dangerous. The judges are no better. They send idiots like this to a short drug/alcohol program give them a small fine and elt them loose on the public again. Again and again. Why aren't the judges and prosecutors allowed to be sued for negligence as well? Maybe its time the laws changed.
Jeremy Sturgis February 26, 2013 at 02:24 PM
This monster violated his parole, plain and simple. How can he be allowed to walk on a$1500 bond? What the Hell is wrong with the court in this county. Was the judge really that inept or are the laws totally backwards?
mitch February 26, 2013 at 05:58 PM
Sounds like the judge was as drunk as Demper this system is so screwed up it will take years to fix all i can say is both are killers
Betsey February 26, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Not a day that goes by that I don't think about my sister and my nieces and nephew thank god he didn't kill another family and hopefully he's in prison for awhile this time !!!!
marie February 27, 2013 at 12:27 AM
Mitch what you said was right on the money! Maybe the judge was drunk and in a hurry to get back to the bar! For all we know the judge and mr. Demper are drinking buddies! Mr. Burleson must be a saint and have a whole lot of self control. God bless him.
A Martin February 27, 2013 at 12:51 AM
This is horrible! Thomas lost his family to this jerk and the guy is out doing the same crap all over again. I am so angered by this. This guy ought to had been sentenced to life in the first place. Drunk driving resulting in the death of three children and their mother = 12 years? What a freakin' joke!
Jerri O'Leary April 22, 2013 at 02:22 PM
How can a judge justify this? Four lives have been taken from their family and this man gets out, breaks parole and is back on the road to kill another family. This judge better take a hard look at what he has done and pray that his family is not the next family to be killed by this man. I speak from a broken heart as this family was my family. They are in heaven, but this man may never see heaven because he truly is not repentant for what he has done. Nay God have mercy on him, I find it hard to.
Bob April 22, 2013 at 05:00 PM
I got rear ended by a drunk years ago. It was his FOURTH arrest for DUI! When will we take this crime seriously. This man committed murder just as the Boston bomber did. He's shown he can't be left loose in society ever.

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